Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just Resolution to Sequestration

February 26, 2013

Dear Members of Congress,

It is with great concern over the effects of the sequester that I write to you today.  These budget cuts will harm real people; they are not an academic exercise and this is no laboratory for testing ideology around the role of government.  Indeed, a recent report by the Coalition on Human Needs shows that 600,000 children and women stand to lose WIC nutrition assistance, 70,000 children may be denied Head Start, and at a time when the need for better mental health care is brought into stark relief by recent violent events, 373,000 people stand to lose access to mental health treatment.  Arguments that the effects of the sequester will not be “that bad” fail to account for the real lives of people who depend on the services that we have committed to provide for the common good of all.

Please find attached Faithful Alternatives to the Sequester, a document offered last summer to Members of Congress by the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs.  In particular, we draw your attention to:

Crushing poverty in a world of abundance is insufferable and our nation has allowed too much injustice and greed to govern our current economic structures.  Instead, we seek to increase equity and equality in this nation. We are alarmed at the growing economic divergence between rich and poor, creating permanent inequalities that are neither just nor socially sustainable. Over the past thirty years, tax policy has too often been used to perpetuate rather than address these inequalities…

It is from this place of concern for the common good, right relationship, and the just working of the economy, that we seek a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  Sequestration was developed as a backstop – a last resort if Congress failed to act in a more thoughtful and balanced way.  Whether Congress uses sequestration or some alternative as a means of achieving deficit reduction, Congress can and must act in a way that reflects our shared values. There are core challenges facing our nation: rising income inequality, persistent unemployment, historically high rates of poverty and anemic economic growth. These challenges must be addressed with justice.

Therefore, we refuse to accept additional spending cuts to programs that serve “the least of these,” and we support extending the tax cuts for low and middle-income families.  In particular, we support a strong, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as they are some of this nation’s most effective tools for alleviating poverty. 

Our approach to upcoming sequestration needs to be rooted in our values – a balanced approach that addresses the deficit crisis with justice and compassion.  On the one hand, we need to be good stewards of the resources we already have, making judicious cuts to defense, earmarks, and other wasteful spending, while preserving that which is most important for the good of all.  On the other hand, we must increase revenue, in order to ensure that this nation can meet our need to operate a fair and just economy, which serves all of our human community. The nation’s deficit crisis cannot be solved through spending cuts alone – new revenues must be part of the solution. The need is great and the resources are abundant.  The budget choices we make must reflect this reality.

Please feel free to contact me at the contact information below, or my fellow Co-Chair, Amelia Kegan, Policy Analyst at Bread for the Word, should you have any questions.

With sincere hopes for a just resolution to Sequestration,

Leslie Woods
Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues
Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs